Monday, 4 June 2012

Harmonising The Dead


Today is the anniversary of the massacre of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Chinese people by its own government's troops. To this day, nobody except the authorities knows how many were killed, wounded or arrested on that awful day.

For nearly seven weeks up to half a million people had gathered in Tiananmen Square to protest harsh economic measures, loss of freedoms and corruption in the ruling classes. The government initially tried to appease demonstrators but then, as with the Russians in earlier years, arrogance and brutality won and the tanks rolled in. Troops had orders to clear the Square - they did so with live bullets.

In the years since, economic sanctions by the West have come and gone: the Chinese dragon is far too attractive monetarily speaking to ignore. The "market reforms" that caused much of the trouble have continued at breakneck speed with the gleeful participation of many outsiders. Suicides amongst Apple assemblers, the most visible sign of the problems, cause a few newspaper columns, an Apple press release and a few pennies and a toilet break for the workers. While the inspectors are there.

So what does the anniversary of the massacre have to do with bloggers? Not much if you're in China. If you've tried to blog about Tiananmen Square or use Chinese-controlled social media then you've seen your posts removed in the name of "harmonisation". Terms like "six four", "23", "candle" and "never forget" are causing posts and "tweets" to be automatically deleted. If you're a Sina Weibo user you won't have been able to change your pic lest you put up an image of the tanks rolling in or try to show one of the bodies of the slain. (Sina Weibo, by the way, is the main Twitter-like network in China.)

Recent social unrest in British urban areas caused Tories and right wing media to scream about the web and smart phones. People who posted daft but apparently incendiary stuff have been jailed for periods of several years - longer than for most who actually rioted and looted. Recent social unrest in the Middle East, fuelled by clever use of social media and helped by smuggled smart phone video to the West, has led to regime change. The Chinese government, long accustomed to the boot on the neck of the lower classes, has learned lessons quickly and effectively.

And the troops? They're keeping guard on the houses of dissidents, activists, ex-prisoners - old fashioned conversations can be just as dangerous and the running dogs of imperialist Western media will hear no reminiscing, no tales of dead and dying, as illegal house arrests proliferate.

Spare a thought today for the dead of 1989. Mention them on Facebook, Twitter, wherever. Take comfort from the fact that the worst that can happen to you is a flame or two, not a bullet in the back of the head.

2 comments:

Deborah Aldrich said...

Sending love to all who've suffered as a result of this event...

Ruth Cox said...

A moment of silence has been spent for the dead of Tiananmen Square and for the living loved ones held silent still.

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